2013 Theme Park Insider Tournament Final: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey vs. Haunted Mansion

March 22, 2013, 8:14 AM · After three weeks of voting, we've reached the final match-up in the Sixth Annual Theme Park Insider Tournament. Today, you'll help pick our collective choice as the world's best themed ride in 2013. Based on your previous votes, our finalists are:

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey from Universal's Islands of Adventure, which defeated Splash Mountain, Tower of Terror and Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges to reach the finals.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The Haunted Mansion from Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, which emerged from the bottom half of the 16-team bracket, upsetting Pirates of the Caribbean, Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man to get here.

Haunted Mansion

One of the interesting things about head-to-head tournament voting, as opposed to our normal rating and reviews is that it rewards attractions with passionate fan bases -- rides that a healthy number of visitors count as their number-one favorite, even if other visitors don't rate it that highly. (The normal rating and review data favors rides with broad support, where nearly everyone rates the attraction as near the top. If you're into sports analogies, it's the difference between racing for wins versus racing for points. *Update: The top five rides in our reader ratings are listed in the right column, underneath the top parks listings.) Clearly, Haunted Mansion enjoys one of those passionate fan bases, as it always outperforms its average overall reader rating in our annual tournaments.

But Harry Potter has its passionate fans, as well. It defeated Mansion in last year's themed ride tournament final. Will it do so again? Let's get to the vote. (We're leaving the voting open over the weekend this time, with the poll closing on Monday morning.)

Thank you to everyone who voted in this year's tournament. And I hope that everyone enjoyed our attempt to shine a little extra light on the best of the best themed rides from around the world, including many international rides that U.S. theme park visitors might not yet have had the chance to enjoy. Have a great weekend, and stay tuned as we'll be posting some new pieces on the site on Saturday and Sunday.

Replies (59)

March 22, 2013 at 8:31 AM · Haunted Mansion will win and deserves to win. FJ's good, but it can't compre to Haunted Mansion.
March 22, 2013 at 8:35 AM · You're a very Foolish Mortal if you don't vote for the classic! Practical effects trump digital every time! Come one, come all Grim Grinning Ghosts! Show you're support!
March 22, 2013 at 8:40 AM · Oh, jeez!!! My favorite ride at Disney vs. an awesome ride based on my favorite series....Ugh!

I voted for FJ last year, based primarily on the use of new technology and immersive queue theming. But HM is, for me, the perfect dark ride. I think I may have to go with my heart this time.... As much as I love FJ and all things Universal, if I was in Orlando and could only pick one of these attractions to ride, I'd have to go with Haunted Mansion. (I can't believe I just said that.....)

March 22, 2013 at 8:42 AM · I love the Haunted Mansion, but it doesn't compare to FJ. The Haunted Mansion has some great effects, but they don't match up to all different elements of FJ. I mean, the queue in FJ has better effects than Haunted Mansion does. Haunted Mansion is a great ride; one of my favorites. But I'd like to see WDW come up with a ride that can beat FJ. I know they can do it. We're all waiting to ride it.
March 22, 2013 at 8:47 AM · The winner of this goes up against the Jungle Cruise, right?
March 22, 2013 at 8:48 AM · Ask anyone under 30 and they would give the award to FJ or RSR. I view the award in the same criteria of the MVP. It should go to the BEST NOW not the best that ever was. The data poll of TPI readers are made of diehard disney fanboys. # yall'old#playahating#Gryffindor4lyf
March 22, 2013 at 9:01 AM · An actual ride with spectacular special effects and the largest representation of Pepper's Ghost way out ways a simulator film, no mater how complex the ride vehicle in the "Simulator" Haunted Mansion wins Hands down
March 22, 2013 at 9:13 AM · Haunted Mansion is the quintessential dark ride. I was pretty bummed when I heard Disney was going to refurbish it at MK, but they made it even better. It still holds my attention the way it did the first time I experienced it in 1975.

It was an easy choice for me, however I completely see where FJ fans can vote the other way and have it be an easy choice for them.

March 22, 2013 at 9:15 AM · If the projection system in FJ was improved so that it wasn't so darn blurry it might have a chance; but as is..? Not so much!
Not old, love the new technology, and can't wait to see Disney do something better... Still voting for Mansion! (And the one in Tokyo is even better than the one in Orlando!!)
March 22, 2013 at 9:27 AM · Two years ago I was butler at Haunted Mansion, Orlando, great venue. However, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is hands down the best in Orlando. (My tenure at Disney was short lived - I was replaced, along with 14 others, with interns.)
March 22, 2013 at 9:31 AM ·
I will honestly be embarrassed if Haunted Mansion is voted the best ride…. I am wondering if folks know what ‘Best’ means… They must be getting confused with nostalgic…
Best like Ricky Bobby…. “Now I am saying this with all due respect.”
March 22, 2013 at 9:40 AM · HM is absolutely no match for FJ IMO. HM is great but if it was not a "classic" Disney ride not a chance in the world HM even comes close to beating FJ.
March 22, 2013 at 10:34 AM · FJ all the way. The queue is so good its treated as a seperate attraction with a queue only tour line. And the ride itself grows on you. It gets better with repeat rides. Just awesome.
March 22, 2013 at 10:45 AM · Don't get me wrong... I think the Mansion est awesome but HP is the best attraction.
March 22, 2013 at 11:02 AM · The addition of the interactive queue and the company's commitment to tweak the attraction by upgrading and adding to its effects gives the edge to the Haunted Mansion. What's more the Disney classic is accessible to a broader audience as it is not as physically brutal (pregnant women, motion sickness, heart conditions do not prohibit participation) as the other ride.

There's also a "right-of-passage" element for little ones -- wherein some of the youngest theme park guests enter the attraction terrified and exit shouting "I want to do it again!" (kudos to Zoe Wolf).

The Haunted Mansion is the Godfather of Dark Rides as and is more than worthy of the title pursued in this competition.

March 22, 2013 at 11:00 AM · TH – Many attractions that appeal to a broader audience have already been bounced… We are looking for the “Best” attractions, Not a broader audience attraction… GO FJ….!!

But I respect your opinion.

March 22, 2013 at 11:08 AM · Not an easy choice for me. I love the way Disney has refurbished and plussed the classic Mansion. But FJ deserves to reign for its magnificent queue, cutting edge ride which combines real sets and characters (that get in your face) with digital effects, and the thrilling use of the Kuka Arm. This is the state of the art, folks.
March 22, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Last year I voted for FJ for a variety of reasons that no longer apply - mostly having to do with Disney's unwillingness to expand their parks. Since that concern is no longer valid, I can use my vote to help out the underdog.

I am used to making votes that count for naught these days...

March 22, 2013 at 11:30 AM · My biggest complaint with FJ is something that someone else has already mentioned, how blurry the video segments are now. I don't understand why Universal hasn't corrected this yet. I love the ride but don't ride it as much as I did because of the lousy presentation.
March 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM · Glad you're here TH! I agree with everything you said.
March 22, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Forbidden Journey and the Haunted Mansion are two different dark rides, with Forbidden Journey being the more revolutionary one.
March 22, 2013 at 1:05 PM · Clearly Forbidden Journey.
March 22, 2013 at 1:18 PM · I love how people vote for or against rides they have never been on...... the cheerleading section sounds a bit desperate today. SMH....
March 22, 2013 at 1:11 PM · Haven't been on Forbidden Journey yet, and I'm sure if I had it would be really hard to pick. For now, I'll go with Haunted Mansion for the same reason I've used in the past several rounds: Animatronics > Projections.

Maybe next year, this tournament should have brackets by park chain instead of just Disney vs. Universal. There could be a Disney bracket, a Universal bracket, a Busch/SeaWorld bracket, and a Six Flags/Cedar Fair bracket, with the top eight in each competing, and then the winners of each chain go up against each other.

March 22, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Haunted Mansion isn't even in the readers top themed rides on this site. So how does it keep advancing farther than Tower of Terror?

This tournament makes no sense to me. The top themed rides should be the ones that other rides need to go up against. I've been on Haunted Mansion, I nearly fell asleep.....

March 22, 2013 at 1:37 PM · As to the nostalgia comments, the first time I rode the Haunted Mansion was in 2000. I am 44. With all due respect to Harry Potter, the Haunted Mansion is the single best ride on this planet. Sure, it is not as technically advanced; however, when I enter the front door in Disneyland or underneath in Orlando, I am no longer in a theme park, but I am in an actual haunted house. Everything, and I mean everything about it is wonderful. The artwork, the narrator (you just name a better ride narration anywhere), the songs, and the story are perfect. Some people will say there is no story, but I disagree. You see just enough to supply your own. It may not win, but a ghost followed me home long ago.
March 22, 2013 at 1:46 PM · Haunted Mansion usually swaps spots with Pirates and Splash Mountain in the top 5, NB.
March 22, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Imagine if Haunted Mansion was updated to the level of detail that Forbidden Journey currently has. With the budget that Disney could throw at it, it would be absolutely breathtaking.
For now, my vote goes to Potter...its time for Disney to step up its A-Game, especially in Florida.
March 22, 2013 at 2:35 PM · I can ride Mansion multiple times and always enjoy it and see something new.Potter just one time was enough - it's pretty spectacular but if I rode it a couple of times in a row I would be heading for the hotel feeling queasy for the rest of the day. Mansion for sure!
March 22, 2013 at 2:38 PM · FWIW, I've had an excellent suggestion for next year's tournament, which I'm planning to use... unless someone comes up with something better in the next 11 months, of course. ;^)
March 22, 2013 at 2:47 PM · It amuses me on here how people get all worked up because some people have the temerity to vote for Haunted Mansion over Forbidden Journey, as if no one in their right mind could ever do such a thing. But the truth is that "best" means different things to different people. Not everyone is blown away by cutting edge technology. FJ pushed the boundaries of what was possible in a theme park attraction but 'first' isn't always best, (just look at Alton Towers and their 'world firsts'). There are many people who prefer the gentle, subtle pleasures of an attraction like HM and can in all sincerity vote for it over FJ, and I'm one of them.
March 22, 2013 at 5:41 PM · I find it interesting that some automatically vote for AAs over projections. For me it all depends how they are used. Its just like movies, practical effects are always more believable and preferred, but digital effects allow for so much more flexibility, when it is not feasible to use practical effects. Case in point, Jurassic park. If all the dinos in the film were AA then their movement and believability would be severely restricted. Digital effects are a crucial tool when practical effects reach their limitations. The pirates of the Caribbean is the best theme park ride ever, imo, but those AAs are not going to be able to jump, run etc. that's when you use other effects like projections, ans indeed there are projection effects of fighting pirates in the battle scene. So I would argue that practical effects and AAs are preferred, but depending on the context, not necessarily superior to digital effects. The projections in transformers or Potter cannot be done with AAs. There is simply too much scale, speed and complexity in the scene to do with AAs, so they should be commended on their thrilling use of projections on those rides. The time to frown upon projection is when the exact same thing could've been done realistically and economically with AAs and I don't see any times in Potter when that's the case, on the contrary AAs are used along with the projections in the ride.
March 22, 2013 at 7:51 PM · I think that Forbidden Journey uses a perfect balance of AAs, screens and real sets. The screens, combined with the dynamic motions of the KUKA arm, really help to make the flying feel quite real.
March 22, 2013 at 8:43 PM · Someone said the HM queue immersed you from the start but the FJ queue is so much more immersive that HM seems minor league in comparison so that argument fails. Just the queue through the FJ castle exceeds all of the HM ride when it comes to detail and show and then you still have the ride itself to do. I really love Haunted Mansion but I know Forbidden Journey is the better attraction. Maybe some people think HM is better because they are too scared of even the mild thrill ride that FJ is. A lot of people have vertigo, get motion sick, have balance problems, weak stomachs, etc. and prefer HM because they can actually ride that ride and FJ scares them off.
March 22, 2013 at 10:21 PM · It's a funny thing how Haunted Mansion is consistently higher in this tournament over normal rankings. I don't know if it's only a fan base issue. If I listed out my favorite attractions HM would be top five but not number 1 but head to head, putting it's features against other attractions features, it is hard not to vote for it. Even FJ, which I am desperate to ride, didn't get my vote. I think HM doesn't have that one amazing feature which makes it my favorite but it has 10 great features that make it hard to beat. Haunted Mansion is the Roger Federer of this tournament. Not the biggest serve, not the quickest player, or the best at the net, but there is no weak point.
March 22, 2013 at 10:22 PM · It's a funny thing how Haunted Mansion is consistently higher in this tournament over normal rankings. I don't know if it's only a fan base issue. If I listed out my favorite attractions HM would be top five but not number 1 but head to head, putting it's features against other attractions features, it is hard not to vote for it. Even FJ, which I am desperate to ride, didn't get my vote. I think HM doesn't have that one amazing feature which makes it my favorite but it has 10 great features that make it hard to beat. Haunted Mansion is the Roger Federer of this tournament. Not the biggest serve, not the quickest player, or the best at the net, but there is no weak point.
March 22, 2013 at 11:14 PM · If there were an all Disney Tourney and then and all Universal Tourney then we could have the winners go against each other for the final. I would like to see Spider-Man head to head with FJ and HM head to head with Pirates or ToT.
March 23, 2013 at 7:36 AM · I voted for Harry Potter even though I have NOT been on it (I know some of the people on here act like that is a big deal..... but let's face it.... there are POVs on-line.... ride descriptioins....etc.). I have ridden Haunted Mansion..... so I think given all the information surrounding Harry Potter I can decide which one I think is more impressive.... It almost seems like these two should not be going up against each other. Harry Potter is one of Universal's big dogs.... but really I don't consider Haunted Mansion a big dog for Disney..... if it were Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Everest, etc. etc. going against Harry Potter, I probably would not have voted for it. I tried to keep my preference for Disney Parks out of it and go with the ride that if I had ridden it and it was the type of ride I enjoyed would probably be the more impressive of the two.
March 23, 2013 at 7:38 AM · And just an added comment..... I think it's odd when people vote for a ride just because it was the one out of the two they have been on. Just because you have not riden the other ride does not make the one you rode the most impressive.
March 23, 2013 at 9:48 AM · Both rides are fantastic, but HM by a nose. HM isn't a simple dark ride...the fantastic interactive end scene with the Hitchhiking Ghosts rivals anything in FJ. I'm not a Disney Fanboy...I LOVE Universal...USF is my favorite park in all of Orlando...just don't see the technical merits of the two being as far apart as some argue.
March 24, 2013 at 1:14 PM · If it wasn't for the Haunted Mansion, FJ would not exist
March 24, 2013 at 4:21 PM · If the 40 years old HM near beat FJ, then next year it's younger sibling Mistic Manor, that will debut this year, will easily take the throne!!!
March 24, 2013 at 5:12 PM · It looks like the Disney fans came out in droves to vote against a ride they have probably never ridden.....
March 24, 2013 at 5:42 PM · I'm calling shenigans....
March 24, 2013 at 6:15 PM · Hey, anyone can post to the Harry Potter reddit or discussion forums if you want to fight back. You've got until tomorrow morning -- for both sides -- to rally votes!
March 24, 2013 at 9:05 PM · I'm refusing to vote for any ride, Universal or Disney in any further tournaments.

Last year, there were just a tad over 1000 votes in the final, miraculously there are 70% more this year and the ride that was ahead by 6% a day ago is suddenly down by 11%?

Something is wrong.

March 25, 2013 at 3:04 AM · Wow, I haven't seen a potential upset of this caliber since Holiday World's The Voyage upended IOA's Hulk in last year's coaster final. I wonder who got the Disney fan community moving, and how they did it? It is usually near impossible to bring them down to earth long enough to get involved. Will the Universal fanboys respond? Still plenty of time to GOTV.

Kudos to HM and its fans for hanging tough. It is nice to see such a beloved classic stand tall in the modern era - even though I would have preferred POTC had received the love....

March 24, 2013 at 9:52 PM · N B, I left this poll open all weekend, instead of closing it after 24 hours, which gave time for people in other fan communities to discover the poll and vote. Those factors would explain a larger and changing vote count.
March 24, 2013 at 11:22 PM · While I love both rides, Forbidden Journey is clearly the superior ride. Just think, in two more years Gringotts will most likely be kicking every other rides butt!

Haunted Mansion nostalgists and Disney fans seemed to come out of the woodwork on this one.

March 25, 2013 at 6:28 AM · "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
March 25, 2013 at 7:58 AM · Something seems off a bit here… Last night at 6:00 pm there were 1,400 votes and a 50/50 Split.

Now 1,470 and it is 56 to 44 percent. Are we to assume all 70 last votes were for HM? So all of the last 5 percent of
the Votes were for HM? None for FJ?

I smell foul Opps - I mean I smell something foul.

March 25, 2013 at 8:56 AM · So does HM get an asterik next to this years win?

Something is just fishy about the flip in votes from a steady 53% 47% and then the next 400 votes flip is to 44%/56% so virtually 90% of the final 500 votes went to HM

So during the course of Sunday HM beat FJ by the largest margin of any ride versus any other ride throughout the tourney and then some

Lots of refresh buttons

March 25, 2013 at 9:15 AM · If somebody linked in from a popular fansite as has happened in the past, the numbers can jump appreciably. I remember the year Cedar Point fans linked in to help their favorite park...The votes were a LOT higher than this contest. In fact it took a link in from Universal itself to push Mummy to a win.

These days Universal is too big for its britches and won't condescend to being involved in a competition like this one. Nor would Disney. So this swing is all fan site driven. Kudos to the HM fans for getting out the vote. FJ fans need to do the same....

March 25, 2013 at 9:38 AM · I found it mentioned on a fan site. We Haunted Mansion fans come out of the attic when we see a a mention of our favorite ride. If you've ever been to a Haunted Mansion event, you would know there are thousands of us. I look forward to being on this site.
March 25, 2013 at 9:39 AM · or someone just used the refresh button way to many times and needs to find a bf or gf
March 25, 2013 at 11:04 AM · Oh well, regular Theme Park Insider readers and posters who keep this site vibrant and interesting and informative have chosen Forbidden Journey by about a 5% margin.
March 25, 2013 at 12:13 PM · I look forward to your challenge. Please be advised that I am a friendly HM guest. I don't fight, I don't try to make you ornery. I like to make you smile. :-)
March 25, 2013 at 1:30 PM · Both are worthy winners of this contest, but Journey is the most impressive ride in Orlando at the moment. My guess is that Mansion is winning this year because it has been plussed recently, and people enjoy the new queue and HHG effects.
March 26, 2013 at 5:07 AM · Welcome to the site, Lori. Stick around after the tournament. We always appreciate the perspective of another fan of highly themed and immersive attractions like both the contestants in this huge battle!

And Mr. Morris, if I remember correctly, only one vote per IP is counted, regardless of the amount of refreshing or cookie-cleaning one does... If your strategy worked, I would have ensured DL's Pirates would have won this contest, hands down.

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